In a 2007 Gallup Poll, 85% of the American public disapproved of the Bowl Championship series. This year, undefeated Cincinnati, TCU, and Boise State did all they could to have a shot at the championship, but realistically, they never had a chance. It is unclear that Texas is more deserving of a BCS title game invite than TCU or Cincinnati. After experiencing this sad state of affairs, I am sure that even more than 85% of college football fans would disapprove of the BCS. Let's demolish the arguments for the BCS. In doing so we will see that an 8 team playoff makes a lot of sense.
The BCS Keeps the Bowl System Intact and Crowns a Legitimate National Champion
It is true that the BCS maintains the importance of the New Year’s Day Bowl games. It is not true, however, that the BCS crowns a legitimate champion. To show that the BCS does not crown a legitimate winner let’s look at the years 2001 through 2008 and determine the chances that a BCS finalist would have won an 8 team playoff. Using power ratings for each year we took the two BCS selected teams and the next 6 ranked teams and used the Palisade Excel Monte Carlo simulation add-in @RISK to play out an 8 team tournament 5000 times. We seeded the BCS selected teams 1 and 2 in the tournament, so they received the easiest possible road to the title game. We found that one of the BCS’ top two teams won only 50% of the time. Even in 2005 when nobody doubted that USC and Texas should have played for the title, there was a 23% chance that both these teams would have been knocked off in an 8 team tournament. So how can the BCS claim they are crowning a legitimate champion?
Simulating an 8 team BCS playoff for the current season gives the following chances that each of the following teams would win the playoff:
- Alabama 39%
- Texas 14%
- Florida 18%
- TCU 8%
- Oregon 8%
- Cincinnati 6%
- Boise State 4%
- Georgia Tech 3%
So again we see that there is only around a 50% chance that one of the BCS’ top 2 teams would emerge with title after an 8 team playoff.
The Current System Allows Lots of Teams End the Season with a Victory
This is certainly true. The same logic, however, would cause us to abandon the NCAA basketball tourney, because it ends with 64 of 65 teams losing their last game. The BCS deprives us of upsets (Miracle on Ice, George Mason in the Final 4, Bryce Drew’s Valpo taking down Ole Miss, etc.) that give us memories that last a lifetime. Utah’s victory over Alabama and Boise State’s unbelievable upset of Oklahoma shows us that David can indeed slay Goliath. The BCS deprives us of seeing great upsets play out on the biggest stage of all.
The BCS Sustains Interest in the Regular Season
Many defenders of the BCS claim that a playoff would dilute the importance of the regular season. This is ridiculous. We knew in August that if Texas went undefeated they would play the Florida-Alabama winner for the title. Actually it took bad officiating calls in the Florida-Arkansas and Tennessee-Alabama games, an injury to Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, and an out of bounds kickoff by Nebraska to make this happen. The key fact is that if Texas, and Alabama or Florida finished the regular season undefeated, no other team had a realistic shot to play for the title. If we had an 8 team playoff, then in most years several one loss or even two loss teams would still have a great shot at playing for the title. For example, Ohio State’s early loss to USC would not have ended their championship hopes and Buckeye fans would have maintained a much higher level of interest in the rest of the season, knowing that an 11-1 record would surely get them in an 8 team playoff.
It Is Too Difficult to Pick 8 Teams
Defenders of the BCS argue that picking 8 teams for a playoff will offend many of the teams left out of the playoff. It is true, that the 9th best team has a right to be upset, but this argument does not prevent the NCAA from selecting 65 teams for their basketball tournament.
Let’s again look at the results of our simulated 8 team playoffs for the years 2001-2008. We found that the top two teams left out of the BCS title game won 25% of the 8 team playoffs. This means the top two non-selected teams have a real beef with the BCS. Unsurprisingly, the 7th and 8th seeded teams in our 8 team playoffs won only 10% of the playoffs. This means that the top non-selected team in an 8 team playoff would have less than a 5% chance of winning the playoff, so we should not worry too much about having not selected that team.
I do not think many people would have a problem with using the BCS’ current ranking system (2/3 polls and 1/3 computers) to pick the teams for the 8 team playoff. The playoff could begin by using the New Year’s Day Bowls for the first round and have the semifinal and championship rounds the next two weeks.
It is Unfair to Make Fans Travel for Three Straight Weekends
First of all, the economy needs all the help it can get. Fans of the top teams live for their team’s big games. If, say Texas plays Boise State in the second round I am sure 50,000 fans will be there, wherever the game is. Of course nobody is worried that the title game will not sell out. Of course, fans travel three weekends during the NCAA basketball tourney.
Hopefully the unfairness of this season to any team not named Texas, Alabama or Florida will start a movement to abolish the BCS. I know our country has more important problems, but let’s get started on replacing the BCS with an 8 team playoff.